Sam Bankman-Fried Drops From Shipping

Disgraced crypto titan Sam Bankman-Fried had something to say after losing more than $1 billion of his clients’ money.

“1) What.”

The heartbreaking message, posted on Twitter last weekend, followed a tragic week for the 30-year-old. FTX, the cryptocurrency trading site he founded and turned into a global behemoth, went bankrupt. Bankmen-Fried’s personal fortune dropped from $15 billion to $0 in just one day, and the company filed for bankruptcy. Things have continued to deteriorate since the new, potentially criminal story emerged: Federal prosecutors in New York have already begun contacting possible witnesses as part of a broader investigation, and white-shoe law firm Paul, Weiss has already dropped Bankman-Fried as a client.

But when Bankman-Fried’s empire went up in smoke and regulators began cracking down, the man once considered the friendly face of cryptocurrency thought he might just have to tweet. Over the next 48 hours, that single “What” was followed by a pattern of numbers and letters – first “2) H”, the beginning of the string, then “3) A, then “4) P” – until a fascinated public began to wise up. At one point, Bankman-Fried would try to explain “WHAT HAPPENED” at FTX.

Except he really didn’t. Instead, Bankman-Fried, or SBF, as it’s known, has spent the past two weeks brazenly talking through the chaos, using a mysterious combination of breathless apologies. poetry referencesand frustratingly casual conversations with reporters to find out what FTX’s creditors have already learned: Despite her confident facade, Bankman-Fried still doesn’t understand the gravity of her situation.

It doesn’t take a perfect legal mind to know that you are under any scrutiny for crimes you may or may not have committed, the best course of action is to essentially remain silent, to further implicate yourself. The SBF countered by giving at least two interviews to journalists. In the first, for The New York Times, Bankman-Fried revealed that she still slept pretty well despite the mess. “It could be worse,” he said, adding that he had spent the last few days relaxing with video games. Bankman-Fried was trying to remind readers that he was still the same old man—after all, he was perhaps naïve. (Bankman-Fried did not respond to a request for comment.)

And earlier this week, SBF took another public shot at restoring its reputation, this time in an interview with journalist Kelsey Piper Vox, during which he made excuses (“I didn’t want to do scratchy things”), offered nonsensical bromides (“the world is never black and white”), and strongly agreed with Piper’s suggestion that he was an ethics-first personality . “Mostly the front.” At one point, letting the mask drop completely, he simply said, “Fuck the regulators.” SBF later tweeted that it thought the interview, which took place over Twitter, was off the record, although when I spoke with Bankman-Fried last month, she was extremely careful to determine which comments were on the record — a product, I assumed, of careful media training.

But the SBF’s constant bluster, now seen as a serious liability, was until recently its most powerful tool. In just a few years, SBF has gone from a niche market arbitrage to one of the most powerful people in cryptocurrency. As the industry slowly entered the mainstream, its vulnerability was always at the core of its appeal to crypto-enthusiasts; it was what set him apart from the legions of anonymous crypto “degens” with NFT profile pictures and embarrassing aliases. Journalists have spent years stalking some cryptocurrency executives to get a look at their companies’ financials; SBF seemed to measure the health of his investments on Twitter in real time. The idea of ​​always being available—a friend of journalists and crypto-podcasters everywhere, accessible both by private message and public admonition—served to reinforce SBF’s image as someone with little to hide. (He was friendly in the days before FTX filed for bankruptcy, as he was when I first reached out to him on Twitter in 2020.)

He wasn’t quite Jeff Bezos, whose tweets were awkwardly professional, and he wasn’t quite Elon Musk, whose tweets have been especially recent. have shown a tendency for cruel trolling. What made SBF so attractive, and ultimately so dangerous, is that it deeply understood, even as opposed to, cryptocurrency culture and the broader internet culture. In an industry that relies on anonymity and the idea that you don’t have to reveal too much information, SBF wanted to show you who it is.

While much of that mystique has been stripped away, it doesn’t do it any favors that SBF just can’t keep quiet. Newly appointed FTX CEO John Jay Ray III, best known for reversing corporate failures at Enron in the mid-2000s, described his predecessor in a recent court filing as unable to stop making “vague and confusing public statements.” the world is falling apart around him. “Never in my career have I seen such a complete failure of corporate control,” he said. Indeed, each new revelation makes SBF look worse and worse. Ray’s documents also revealed a previously undisclosed $1 billion loan that SBF apparently pocketed.

After years of confounding the industry and even burning through tens of billions of dollars, it feels like SBF still sees itself as dominating the people in its orbit. His image is not a villain image, although it certainly looks like SBF-the-man. His unbroken, unguarded post was an extension of the serious persona he had once cultivated. It’s just sad now.

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